After the Civil War, Cox took advantage of his relative prosperity and assumed a leadership role in Richmond's African American community. Buoyed by Emancipation but hampered by a devastated economy, discriminatory policies, and white hostility, Richmond blacks created a network of secret societies that provided relief aid and offered a platform for addressing grievances. Cox emerged as president of one of the largest such organizations, the Lincoln Union Aid Society. He may also have headed up a mounted militia unit, three of whose members attempted to integrate a Richmond streetcar in April 1867. Cox's leadership within the black community did not escape the notice of federal authorities. After Congress passed the First Reconstruction Act in March 1867, an officer of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands identified Cox as a local leader who could take the ironclad oath and therefore serve in government. In the spring of 1867 he sat on the petit jury called to hear the case against former Confederate president Jefferson Davis on charges of treason.
Cox's hard work was rewarded on October 14, 1867, when a convention of city Republicans nominated him and four other candidates (one black, three white) as delegates to a statewide convention called to write a new constitution for Virginia. Richmond's African American population mobilized and by a margin of 404 votes elected the Radical Republican slate, which also received 48 votes from whites. The defeated Conservative candidates alleged fraud but failed to overturn the results. Meeting from December 3, 1867 to April 17, 1868, the convention developed a constitution that granted universal manhood suffrage, instituted a public school system, reorganized the state's system of local government, and proposed disfranchising Confederate loyalists.
Mid-1830s - Joseph Cox is born in Powhatan County. He may be the son of a free black named Joseph Cox. His mother's name is not known for certain, but she may be Lizza Smith, a free woman of color.
1850 - By this year Joseph Cox mostly likely has moved to Richmond with his father, who is a laborer in the city.
June 1860 - By this time Joseph Cox has married a woman named Eliza, whose maiden name is unknown and who works as a washer. They will have at least one daughter.
December 3, 1867–April 17, 1868 - Joseph Cox, a representative from Richmond to the constitutional convention, serves on the Committees on the Legislative Department and on County and Corporation Courts and County Organizations, as well as on the Committee on Finance, which has a largely organizational function within the convention.
April 17, 1868 - Joseph Cox joins other Republican delegates in approving the new state constitution.
July 1869 - Voters ratify a new state constitution without the provisions to disfranchise Confederate veterans.
April 1870 - Joseph Cox becomes a vice president of the Richmond chapter of the Colored National Labor Union.
August 1875 - Joseph Cox numbers among the approximately 100 African American delegates from across Virginia who meet in Richmond to address the lack of jobs and to advance the interests of the state's blacks.
April 18, 1880 - Joseph Cox is buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Chesterfield County (later Richmond). A reported 3,000 people turn out to pay their respects.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Whitley, W. B., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Joseph Cox (ca. 1835–1880). (2014, January 9). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Cox_Joseph_ca_1835-1880.
- MLA Citation:
Whitley, William Bland and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Joseph Cox (ca. 1835–1880)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 9 Jan. 2014. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: June 6, 2013 | Last modified: January 9, 2014